"Don't touch!' Public warned about rash-inducing caterpillar infestation at Budleigh Salterton

PUBLISHED: 15:39 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:15 18 May 2018

A brown-tail moth larvae. Picture: Bradley Grillo - Wikimedia Commons

A brown-tail moth larvae. Picture: Bradley Grillo - Wikimedia Commons


Areas of Budleigh Salterton have been cordoned-off and safety warnings issued because the town has been invaded by hundreds of rash-inducing caterpillars.

Part of Lime Kiln car park has been closed to the public and notices warn against touching the ‘explosion’ of brown-tail moth caterpillars infesting the seafront and Steamer Steps.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said the caterpillars can cause an allergic reaction similar to nettle rash and are warning people to keep their distance.

A council spokeswoman told the Journal: “We strongly advise members of the public not to touch the caterpillars, which are hairy and dark brown with distinctive white marks down the side and orange-red warts at the rear end.

“The hairs of these larvae can cause an allergic reaction in some people - similar to nettle rash.”

Pest control to eliminate the bugs cannot be used for fear the chemicals could further harm the public.

EDDC says the rash risk to the public would lessen once the creatures pupate.

The council spokeswoman said: “Thanks to the glorious weather we have been experiencing recently, there has been a localised population explosion of brown-tail moth caterpillars in and around Budleigh. Consequently, our StreetScene team has been busy putting up notices warning people not to touch the caterpillars.

“At this larval life stage, any pruning back of foliage 
would be ineffective and we feel that chemical pest control, which would involve very large doses of harmful chemicals being sprayed, would not be in the public interest and could potentially do more public harm than the issue it would be addressing. As the caterpillars are fully grown, it will only be a matter of days before they pupate and transform into moths and therefore will no longer be a public issue.

“The adult moths are eaten by a wide variety of birds and so will not necessarily lead on to more caterpillars next year. However, our countryside team will work with StreetScene over the winter to safely remove wintering nests if we find there are a considerable number of them this autumn. In the meantime, while there are caterpillars out there, we strongly advise members of the public not to touch the caterpillars.”

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